Manhattan College Updates Fire Safety Rules For COVID-19 Regulations

by, Lauren Raziano, Contributor

On Sept. 28, Public Safety sent an email to the Manhattan College community regarding updated fire safety guidelines in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The email provided updated information regarding how to practice fire safety in accordance to COVID guidelines. The email stated, “ Fire and life safety remain a priority at Manhattan College, even as COVID concerns are being addressed. There is no relaxation of the New York State Fire Code provisions regarding occupant alarm response due to COVID.”

Peter DeCaro, the director of Public Safety, worked on updating the policy to reflect COVID-19 safety standards.

“COVID has impacted everyone’s life,” DeCaro said. “The College is managing the safety of our students and employees as well as complying with all governmental guidelines that have been put forth.” 

“This is clearly a huge undertaking,” DeCaro said. “Public Safety’s expanded role during COVID includes education and re-enforcement of College COVID policies, including the requirement that all employees and students complete the daily symptom tracker everyday they’re on campus.”. 

To update the fire safety precautions for COVID, the email stated that taking the closest safe exit in the event of a fire emergency “preempts any temporary COVID-related designation of single direction corridors or stairs.”

If there is a fire alarm, all persons should wear a face covering and maintain social distancing when evacuating, waiting in assembly areas, and re-entering the building. 

DeCaro addressed the question of whether people will remember to follow the COVID safety guidelines in the panicked state experienced during a real fire. In theory, if people are faced with heavy breathing from running and inhaling smoke, they will probably take off their masks and cough. 

“If there were an actual fire and conditions included the presence of fire and or smoke, persons evacuating would have to make a personal judgment call regarding the wearing of a mask in those circumstances, which might actually be helpful in a smoke environment,” DeCaro said.

Students evacuate Lee Hall for a fire drill on Oct. 7.

There is also the issue of people crowding the stairwells and cramming through doors, not being able to maintain six feet distance. 

“During any building evacuation, evacuees should never crowd, keep some distance between each other, and exit quickly but calmly,” DeCaro said. “This would be the same guideline during COVID.” 

Pamela Moleri, a freshman who was in Horan Hall for quarantine at the beginning of the semester, explained that the fire dill exposed problems with following COVID regulations.

“So the first fire drill I experienced I was in quarantine, in Horan Hall, and I was actually in an online class, and I had to leave because the fire drill was going on,” Moleri said. “This was really odd considering most of the people there were in quarantine and were not supposed to be in contact with other people, so that was not really a safe situation. If an actual fire was going on, I could’ve understood it, but it was just a drill. It was not really a safe situation.” 

This fire drill occurred prior to Public Safety sending out an updated fire safety policy with COVID-19 in mind. Moleri was also present during the Oct. 7 fire drill in Leo Engineering Hall.

In Leo there was another fire drill and I guess it was safer since they were not subject to quarantine or anything like that so it was ok to be able to go out and be surrounded by other people,” Moleri said.

It is important to keep the campus safe during fire drills or in serious emergencies. 

“Let’s help keep each other safe – please wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines,” DeCaro said.